Speed limiters dangerous, say minibus drivers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 August, 2009, 12:00am

Minibus drivers and owners say fitting speed limiters to vehicles will lead to more accidents - because drivers will not be able to accelerate to avoid a crash.

The head of the legislature's transport panel agrees they could make journeys less safe.

The government says it intends to require speed limiters on all mini-buses by the end of next year.

The policy was announced after a minibus from Yuen Long to Tuen Mun rammed a slow-moving truck two weeks ago. Four people on the bus were killed and 13 injured.

Drivers are unclear about how speed limiters would work.

Some say they would force a minibus to a halt if the driver tried to exceed the limited speed, while others believe they would simply stop the driver accelerating past the limit.

The government has not said what the limit will be, but has suggested 80km/h.

'We have never seen the controller so we cannot agree with it. The government has not sought our opinion and now it wants to speed up the installation because of a couple of fatal accidents,' said Ling Chi-keung, chairman of the Public Light Bus General Association, which represents firms that operate minibuses.

One group representing minibus drivers said fitting limiters to only their vehicles was discriminatory.

They were speaking yesterday after members of 10 groups representing minibus drivers and owners met Miriam Lau Kin-yee, chairwoman of the Legislative Council's transport panel. Ms Lau said the devices could make minibuses less safe.

'There could be a car crash if a minibus is stopped by the speed controller when the driver attempts to exceed the speed limit,' she said.

Ms Lau said the key to preventing accidents was eliminating the incentives for drivers to break the law.

Around three in 10 drivers operated under a 'commission plus bonus' system, in which their pay comprised a percentage of the fares they received driving a set number of journeys, with additional pay earned by completing extra journeys.

'The government should phase out this business model and adopt proper employment terms for drivers,' Ms Lau said.

But Chan Fung-yuen, of the Motor Transport Workers General Union, which represents about 3,000 minibus drivers, supported fitting speed limiters to minibuses. Drivers were obliged to ensure passenger safety, he said, and the devices would not cause accidents if drivers were sufficiently experienced and alert.